April 13, 2002 – Ground will be broken for a new animal shelter facility on St. Thomas later this year, and it will be done by the private sector, Randolph Knight said Friday evening at the opening ceremonies for the Mark C. Marin Center at Antilles School.
Knight expressed his disappointment at the government's treatment of the Humane Society of St. Thomas shelter, which has not yet received what Knight termed its "measly $75,000 allocation from the government for each of the last two years for performing over an estimated $300,000 worth of services each year that are supposed to be performed by the Department of Agriculture." (See story "Animal shelters still awaiting money".)
Knight, owner of Knight Communications of the V.I., donated $1 million to build the Marin Center, a sports facility that will serve the whole St. Thomas community. "Just as I got involved with the MCM Center," he said, "I will be taking a very active role in the construction of a brand new, state-of-the-art animal shelter here in St. Thomas in the very near future."
Why him? "It's simple," he said. "The project is for those of us who love animals, and we know that the government will be out to lunch on this one, too, and that it will be up to the private sector to take on the project." He added, "We appreciate the often thankless work performed by the shelter's employees and members, and they are going to be given the tools to get the job done."
The land, pledged by an anonymous donor, is along Weymouth Rhymer Highway across from Market Square East, he said.
In Nadir, where the Humane Society facilities are now located, the V.I. government intends to take two of the shelter buildings and about half of the land, including the septic system, the society board chair, Joe Aubain, said on Saturday.
Aubain said no date has been set for the government's acquisition of the land, but he is setting up a meeting with Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood next week to "find out the status of the project and how much the society property is worth."
Aubain's enthusiasm for the new facility echoes Knight's. "We've been working on this for the last year," he said. "Everybody is looking forward to seeing it develop."
Knight said on Saturday, "We're really excited. We have made progress, and we are going to do it. It's a done deal. We are confident we can raise the money." A major fund-raising campaign will be coming up, he said, "possibly a cost challenge fund." He said the money the government pays for the shelter's land should play an important part of the financing.
Knight and Aubain are coordinating the project. They have contacted firms that have built shelters, and the plans are progressing nicely, they said.
Knight lamented the repeated break-ins at the Nadir shelter, where most recently its generator was taken. "The new facility will have proper security," he said, along with new kennels and everything a modern shelter requires.
Speaking before Rotary II last fall, Humane Society board member Richard Dollison said the new facility, to be built on about two acres of land, would accommodate "three times the number of animals that the Nadir shelter can handle, and that will allow the society to greatly expand its educational outreach programs."
St. Thomas shelter manager Hubert Brumant made no attempt to curb his excitement. "We just can't wait," he said. "We can get so much more work done. We will be equipped to do the type of job that we are capable of doing."
Brumant also is eager to move out of the Nadir location, which is next door to the abattoir. "We're so close, we hear the animals' cries," he said. "This is not an ideal location for a shelter, and when it rains, it floods out." In the new location, "we will be centralized and we'll be able to service the whole community," he said. "We'll be easier to get to, and more people will come."
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